A few weeks ago, I had a run in with the Washington DC’ Metro SmarTrip machine. I purchased some extra fare for my card and when I reached my destination, I realized that although I had a receipt, the money was not on the card. The nice station manager explained to me that the system is set up in such a way that he can’t help me. I had to put some more money on the card and follow-up with customer service. “But,” he cautioned me, “you had better register your card first if you haven’t because otherwise your money is gone.”
My SmarTrip card and I have been together almost since I moved to the DC area. I purchased a card the moment they arrived in town; sometime in the late 90s. I’m pretty responsible, so I was fairly sure that I had registered the card, but I’m really bad at passwords. But I’m really good at getting the systems to send me a password reset. (Why memorize a password if you can reset it?) However, my card and I have a relationship so long, we’ve been through six mailing addresses, three email addresses, at least two phone numbers and two last names! As it turns out it was registered under my first email address ever. One that I no longer have access to. Customer service was my only option.
After waiting on the phone for what felt like an eternity, a very nice young woman picked up. I swear she must have thought I was a crazy woman. The conversation went something like this:
“I see that card number. Can I get the name the card was registered under?” (Keep in mind I’m multi-tasking while doing this.)
“Christine Bitzer. I mean Luth; I got married.”
“Ok, I see you here. Can you tell me the address?”
“You mean the one I lived in when I registered it.”
“I’m pretty sure I registered it at the Florida Street house, right?”
“Yes, do you have the address number.”
“It’s 3 digits. But my parents’ address is 3 digits and it’s not the same .”
“Well do you know the phone number?”
“Sure.” I said, all smug and gave her the phone number.
“That’s not what I have here.” she replied.
My mind went blank.
What other possible phone number could I have had? And what the heck were those 3 digits?!
I started babbling to her to keep her on the phone. Essentially I was trying to keep us from having to hang up as I ran through the house searching for anything that might offer a clue to the past 15 years of my life. My old hand written address book didn’t help. I could not find one old bank statement or credit card bill – nothing with anything on it. I finally found copies of old resumes and interrupted my babble with the three digits she needed. I also gave her the 7 digit phone number – just in case she thought I was a crazy woman trying to take over Christine Bitzer’s life. (It is me, it really is me.)
I can tell you the address of the house I started school in. (You know when you have to learn your address in case you get lost.) But some of the houses I’ve lived in since I left home for college, I can’t tell you much about their addresses anymore and I thought I’d never forget. I remember clearly their nicknames – which do provide a clue as they are the street names (original, I know). They just aren’t relevant in everyday life anymore. It’s only in these highly specialized instances that I need to remember them.
I say this because we all do this. We all go to the doctor’s office and realize that there is one medication we just can’t remember – ‘it’s an impossible to pronounce word that I take for my heart.’ Or we remember the name but not the dose because we’ve been taking it forever and ‘doesn’t the doctor know what I’m on anyway?’ And we don’t remember the name of the drug that we had a really bad reaction too. Or I’m chagrined to say, I had minor surgery last summer (last summer) it was so minor, I could see myself forgetting to put it on a health questionnaire. But I was under general anesthesia so I need to remember it.
It’s important to have all this information about your health somewhere that’s easily accessible, so when you see a new doctor you can bring in the sheet. And it’s important to have the most useful pieces, emergency contacts, allergies, drugs and diagnoses at the least, on one sheet with you. Make one for you home – most Area Agencies on Aging and other providers have something called a “File of Life”. Sometimes people suggest keeping a copy in your car. And if you’re responsible for or help other people, children, family members, etc., keep a copy of their information around as well. All this information will make it easy for an EMT to know how to treat you.
I too need to update my own list. But I think I also need a list to chronicle my previous houses. And maybe, if I keep it for another 20 or 30 years, I can use it to tell my grandchildren or godchildren about all the fun places I lived through out the country and around DC.
Christine Bitzer, LICSW, is the Assistant Director of Seabury Resources for Aging’s Care Management service. Care managers work with older adults on an individual basis to advise them on a variety of issues and services; such as home care, transportation, medical/legal assistance and housing. Families are put at ease having a knowledgeable guide to provide recommendations and resources to meet their unique needs. This expertise can save families money and reduce stress and time away from work. Christine can be reached at (202) 364-0020 or email her at CBitzer@seaburyresources.org